Ten Years In The Making: “Sweet Thunder” To Bring Sugar Ray Robinson’s Story To The Silver Screen

It’s about time the great – the greatest of them all – Sugar Ray Robinson was given the silver screen treatment. The best to ever do it has been portrayed in films before (in the classic ‘Raging Bull,’ for example; the 1980 epic immortalising Jake LaMotta), but never has the full story of the man born Walker Smith been paid tribute to via film. This is about to change, as British actor David Oyelowo is set to play Robinson in the in-the-works film ‘Sweet Thunder.’

Oyelowo spoke with Deadline and he spoke about the project that is very close to him. Oyelowo is writing the film as well as producing it, and the actor is working hard in the gym so as to look like Sugar Ray (no easy task). Having played Martin Luther King in ‘Selma,’ Oyelowo is now set to play another American icon.

“Selma took seven years [to make]; I think we’re almost ten with Sweet Thunder,” Oyelowo said.

It has indeed been a long road but hopefully the end result will be worth it. Robinson really was the finest of the fine, able to do just about everything in the ring: hit extremely hard with either hand, fight going backwards as well as forwards, take a great shot, box and move for 15 rounds at an incredible pace, make the sport of boxing look as beautiful as ballet. Sugar Ray was in a class of his own. Robinson also lived a colourful life outside of the ring, and he was no saint. It will be interesting to see how much of the dark side of Ray Robinson is featured in the film. Also, it will be interesting to see how many of Robinson’s key fights are featured in the film, and which actors will play the likes of LaMotta, Carmen Basilio, Randy Turpin, etc…

Most of the great fighters who deserve a film made in their honour have had the silver screen treatment, and now it’s Robinson’s turn. Finally. We wish Oyelowo nothing but the best with this mighty project.

Robinson, as his fans know, fought as a pro from 1940 to 1965, during which time he compiled an astonishing 174-19-6-2 no contest (109) record. Robinson died in 1989, having been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease some years before.